BILLINGS, Mont. – Playing at home for the first time this season, the Montana State University Billings baseball team marked the occasion with a pair of victories over Saint Martin’s University in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play.
The Yellowjackets (9-11, 3-3 GNAC) nearly surpassed their total run total from last week’s games against Northwest Nazarene in just the first matchup of the day against the Saints (5-14, 2-4 GNAC), taking the opener at Pirtz Field 16-8, before winning the second game 10-5.
“It was a huge start for us this week,” said Yellowjacket’s head coach Derek Waddoups. “One of our points of emphasis was focusing on putting the ball in play, and two strike hitting. Our guys did a great job with that in both games today, that was really the difference for us today, just helping us punch in runs.”
Mitch Winter hit 7-8 in the doubleheader, with a pair of doubles, four RBIs, and five runs.
“The power is always there for Mitch,” said Waddoups. “But I think he’s really maturing in the professionalism of his at bats. We really encourage his approach, what pitches he attacks and what he lays off on, and he’s really doing a great job for us.
The Yellowjackets found production up and down the lineup in both games with ten of their 26 runs scored today coming from the 7-9 hitters.
“It’s really easy to put the hot guy batting second or third,” said Waddoups. “But what’s going to make a great team is 7-9, or the guys behind them off the bench. We had some different guys in the lineup today, and a lot of guys stepped up. It’s a next man up philosophy, and that depth of production is what makes the lineup tough.”
Game One: MSUB 16, SMU 8
After playing close in the first two innings, the Yellowjacket’s offense caught fire, plating nine runs across the third and fourth innings to jump out to a 12-3 lead. It featured clutch hitting from pieces at the bottom of the lineup, including a three-run triple from shortstop Cole Dawson. The Saints would close the gap in the middle innings, pulling to within four as the game entered the eighth inning. MSUB would once again see the bottom of the order come up big again though, with Dawson, Tyler Godfrey, and AJ Wagenmann all collecting RBIs, making the game 16-8, and giving the ‘Jackets a comfortable lead to see out the ninth inning.
Wagenmann did damage early as well, hitting one of the two home runs in the game for MSUB in the fifth inning with a shot to left field. Payton Flynn continued his heavy hitting start to the season, opening the scoring for MSUB in the first inning with a three-run bomb to right center, his team leading sixth of the year.
Daniel Naughton picked up the win, his second of the season, allowing four hits and striking out three in five innings of work. After struggles in the sixth however, Sage Wayment would enter to calm things down. The reliever would throw the final 3.1 innings for MSUB, allowing just two hits to the thirteen batters he faced. Wayment struck out two Saints in the game.
Wagenmann, Winter, and Parker Bleggi led the ‘Jackets in hits, each collecting three. Dawson finished with a career high five RBIs, going 2-5 in the game. Leadoff hitter Carson Green went 2-5.
Game Two: MSUB 10, SMU 5 (7 inning)
Facing a tough matchup against one of the GNAC’s top pitchers in Justice Yamashita, the Yellowjacket’s struggled to get much going in the early innings of game two, finding themselves down 5-1 after the top of the third inning. Looking to gain back momentum quickly, the nine hitter Brock Molenda would give the ‘Jacket’s offense the kickstart it needed in the bottom of the third inning. Molenda’s leadoff homerun to right field was the beginning of an impressive run for MSUB, who scored nine unanswered runs over the rest of the game. Winter, Flynn and Bleggi would all collect RBIs to tie the game in the third inning, before Molenda would strike again with his second home run of the game, giving the Yellowjackets the lead for the rest of the game.
Molenda finished 2-3 with the pair of homers. Winter went a perfect 4-4 in the game, with three RBIs and two runs. Carson Green went 3-4. Both he and Bleggi finished with a steal in the second game. Flynn and Hayden Foltz each went 2-3 with a double.
Jackson Betancourt made some key adjustments after some early struggles, picking up his first win on the season. Betancourt threw six innings, striking out four and allowing six hits, with just three of his runs earned. Betancourt was followed by Nolan Thebiay, who struck out one batter in the final inning, seeing out an MSUB win.
THE BUZZ: Winter was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day… His four RBI day put him in the lead for RBIs on the season with 21… Bleggi is now the fifth Yellowjacket on the season with multiple steals.
UP NEXT: The Yellowjackets and Saints conclude their series with a doubleheader tomorrow at Pirtz Field, scheduled to begin at 12 PM.
Article originally by Logan Tracy, MSUB Assistant Director of Communication